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Think You’ve Seen It All? Well, You Haven’t.

19 Jan

by Roger White

 

Boy, it happens every time. Without fail, every time I throw my arms up in disgust and utter an exasperated “I’ve seen it all now,” something worse comes along to heave a brick upside the noggin of my jaded sensibilities and inform me that, no, I have not seen it all. Not. Even. Close.

 

Despite how ridiculously vile and frighteningly xenophobic as the foul-smelling arena of politics has become, no, I’m not talking about that. Politics parodies its own self so well these days that no comment is required. Except God help us all. No, what sparked yet another ISIAN (I’ve Seen It All Now) self-rebuke of late came from the one field of human endeavor that manages to run a close second to politics in its ability to horrify and nauseate: advertising.

 

Let me take you back. It wasn’t long ago, a matter of weeks perhaps, and the weather was rotten. So was my health. I had a stubborn chest cold. I’d settled myself down in front of the TV with a meal of my favorite comfort food: a hot bowl of split-pea soup, saltines, and iced tea. With a side of crispy baby gherkins. Awaiting me was an afternoon of recuperation with nourishing reruns of “The Andy Griffith Show” and “The Twilight Zone.” It was just the therapeutic Mukyprescription I needed. Suddenly, there on the screen, rudely interrupting my sick-day fare of Opie, Aunt Bee, Thelma Lou and Rod Serling, was a commercial for some cough medicine featuring an anthropomorphic glob of mucus. That’s right. A walking, talking sickly-green lump of phlegm with stumpy, phlegmy arms and legs.

 

I don’t have to tell you that half of my bowl of hot split-pea soup with saltines went cold and uneaten. The gherkins didn’t go down so well, either.

 

If you watch any television, you, too, have probably seen this chubby little humanoid snotball (no, not Trump—this is about advertising, remember?). Are they serious? These cough medicine moguls are hawking their health-restoring elixir with a revolting ball of human effluence, presumably nicknamed Muky the Mucus Man?

 

Can you just picture these marketing geniuses at deadline time?

“Joe, you got anything?”

“No. I’m empty.”

“Bob? Anything?”

“I dunno. How ’bout a talking loogie?”

“Okay, that’s good. We’re just about out of time. Let’s go with it.”

 

And yeah, when I saw this slimy, gloppy bit of Madison Avenue creativity, my arms reached skyward, and I uttered forth: “I’ve seen it all now.”

 

And yet again, it wasn’t long after that that my latest ISIAN declaration was roundly rejected. Just when I thought that advertising types could sink no lower, the next week I was introduced to a pink little anthropomorphic bladder. It was gotta peean ad for bladder control medicine, and in it this adorable roundish little bladder walks along holding hands with its owner, constantly reminding her that she has to pee. Wait, there’s more. On the same day, on the same channel, came an ad featuring an adorable pink little walking knot of intestines. Really. This creepy duodenum dude, who I can only guess is called Barry Bowels or something, is the mascot for an Irritable Bowel Syndrome medication. Yes, Intestine Man is the best they could conjure.

 

Never in my most delirious fever dreams have I ever envisioned my bowels as a funny-faced little pink dude—and in all candor, I shudder to imagine what my lower innards would look like with a face and limbs. Especially my innards.

Inty

Gak. What’s next? A cutesy brown cartoon poop named Danny Doody concocted as a stool softener mascot? A cuddly little mouth ulcer called Herpey Harry designed to sell cold sore cream? An anthropomorphic little mascot called Limpy the Member used to sell erectile dysfunction pills?

 

Boy, I’ve seen it all. No, wait. I’m quite certain that I haven’t.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely spouse, two precocious offspring units, a morbidly obese dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr Syndrome. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com. Or not.

 

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Of OCD and Toilet Paper and Rubber Donkeys. Nik Nik.

30 Jan

by Roger White

 

How does one know if one’s quirks and little idiosyncrasies are just mildly neurotic tendencies or behaviors that qualify as borderline OCD leanings—or perhaps even activities that could be viewed as sliding down the scale to full-blown dementia? Nik nik nik nik nik.

ocd me

I understand that we are all creatures of habit and that regular routines and daily patterns bring a sense of structure and comfort into our lives. Nik. But taking a half-hour every morning before I can begin work to make sure that my original redline Hot Wheels on my desk are all facing the same direction, at precisely the same angle, and in the same order (by date of manufacture, beginning with the earliest first—from my aqua Beatnik Bandit on down the line) may be a bit excessive, I’m beginning to think. Nik nik nik.

 

Around the house, I find that the needle on my anxiety meter begins to bounce if I don’t adhere stringently to certain customs, such as the following:

 

  • Folding the dishtowel that hangs on the oven handle just right so that one side of the towel hangs precisely even with the other.
  • sil vous plaitTurning the little ceramic French waiter who stands on our stove to the wall so he can’t beseech me with his little ceramic eyes to glue his lost, broken hand back on.
  • Religiously rescrewing the cap on the toothpaste tube in my daughter’s bathroom every time I’m in there. Little slob.
  • Making sure when I refill the TP rollers throughout the casa that the paper flows under the roll and not over. It’s an aesthetic thing. I’ve always been an under man, even though I know that hotels prefer the over position so they can make those fanciful folds in the paper. Pshaw. That’s just pretentious snobbery. It’s gotta be under. Nik.
  • Or zealously remembering every time that I pet either Ralph the dog or Max the cat to immediately seek out the other, un-petted pet if he’s in the room to give him the exact same amount of strokes so that neither of them feel inferior or somehow less loved.

 

Is this behavior normal, a tad askew, or downright wack?

 

There’s a little green, guitar-playing rubber turtle I keep next to my computer, the turtlesand he tells me, in his sing-song voice, that this is all quite ordinary and that I should remain calm. This turtle, Larry, is the sole surviving member of The Animals. This may be changing subjects in the middle of a column—or it may not, considering the topic at hand—but here is the story of Larry the turtle:

 

When I was a kid, I created a tiny rock and roll band out of my gumball-toy animals. I called them The Animals. I fashioned tiny, little instruments—guitars, a standup bass, a full drum kit, piano, and amplifiers—out of index card paper for them to play. I even made tiny, little cardstock albums with sleeves. Their manager, Irving, was a tiny gray plastic gorilla, and he drove them all around to their gigs in a little blue plastic VW bus. Nik nik. Their opening song for every gig was “Get Ready” by Rare Earth because that was my favorite 45-rpm record at the time. My friend Gary and I would set them on their shoebox stage, I’d put on the Rare Earth record and hit the black light, and the crowd (my stuffed animals and other toy creatures) would go wild. The Animals were big. They even had a yacht—a red plastic boat I’d float them around in during my nightly bath.

 

Now, at the time our family had an actual boat—a small, used four-seat outboard we would take to Lake Benbrook on the weekends. On one outing I decided to take The Animals to the lake for a high-seas adventure. For the trip home, I left them in their little craft in a seat of our family boat. When we got back home, they were gone. Somewhere along the way, they’d blown out—a tiny, little gumball-animal version of Lynyrd Skynyrd. I was inconsolable. So distraught was I that my dad actually drove me all the way to the lake, and we slowly retraced our path from the water onto the road back home. Can you believe we the survivorsactually found their little red boat in the grass on the side of the road? Nik. I recovered a few of the boys, but the rest were hopelessly lost. The band gamely tried to go on, but it was never the same. Some retired or went on to everyday gumball-animal life with the other toys. Some descended into a downward spiral of alcohol and drug abuse. The little rubber donkeys were the worst. Little rubber donkeys cannot handle their toy liquor.

 

My counselor says I have to stop now. I feel better. Thanks for listening. Wait, where is everybody? Nik. Nik nik.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a nik nik nik self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

I Would Shake Your Hand, But . . . Ebola, You Understand

21 Oct

by Roger White

Dear Diary: Day 37 of my quarantine finds me gazing out at the swath of graceful oaks and maples that crowd the greenbelt beyond my back yard. Two slender brown squirrels skitter and climb among the lower branches of the trees with effortless agility. They chatter excitedly as they chase each other and run from the marauding blue jays. The jays can’t stand the squirrels. They see them as interlopers who invade their got itfeeders and scavenge the seeds and nuts on the ground before they can harvest them. Jays are natural bullies, and the squirrels are their foils, carefree clowns both aloof and contemptuous of the great birds’ status as authority figures of the suburban greenery. You can see in his eye as the large male jay tracks the movement of the squirrels bounding below him: “Why, I oughta…”

I wonder if the jays and squirrels worry about ebola.

And there it is. I realize now I can’t do one thing, engage in one activity, carry one thought in my mind, for more than three minutes without being drawn magnetically back to the dreaded “e” word. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeebola. (Picture here the Swiss dude in lederhosen and Swiss hat blowing on an outrageously long alphorn in that cough drop commercial.) Out of an abundance of caution, I’ve been sentenced to weeks of isolation because of my tangential exposure to the deadly virus du jour. You see, I was in the nuff saidDallas area recently to visit my mom, and I happened to stop in for a soft drink at a south Fort Worth gas station. Come to find out that the cashier at this gas station had recently been in the same movie theater as a guy whose son played on the same soccer team as another kid whose mother had been in the same Walmart as a woman who’d washed her car at the same car wash as a man who had been on the same airplane as the father of a girl who attended the same high school as a kid whose grandmother’s hairdresser rode on the same bus as the accountant of a guy who had changed a tire for a woman who’d played canasta with the aunt of a guy whose sister drove past the hospital where the whole ebola thing started here in Texas. So, yike. I’m practically at death’s door here.

Har. Don’t get me wrong. Ebola be bad. Lord knows we have to panic about something, so it might as well be a nasty virus from across the Big Pond. Better than the usual hyped tripe from the cesspool of politics. HOWDY, coughBut I do believe we’re taking it just a tad too seriously, no? I saw a Facebook post that summed it up nicely: More people in the United States have been married to Kim Kardashian than have died from ebola.

And yes, I kid on the quarantine. In actuality, I was gazing out my rear window watching the squirrels tease the jays in a conscious effort to avoid my TV. I’m a television junkie, I freely admit, which creates a twisting cognitive dissonance in me wee cranium due to the fact that I truly and completely loathe the media. If today’s media aren’t the cause of all things evil, then they’re most definitely exacerbators of it. Members of the media foment more distress, disharmony, and dyspepsia than any other group of humans on the planet other than politicians.

Case in point: ebola. As a test, the other night I got out a lovely, unopened bottle of Jack black and decided to play an updated version of an old fraternity game. I sat in front of the tube with a shot glass, the bottle of Jack, and the remote. The game: Roam among the cable news channels, stopping for just a few minutes at a time on each channel, and guzzle down a shot at each utterance of the word ebola. I started the game at approximately 7:15 p.m. By 7:41, I was schnockered. I was so hammered that I somehow found myself standing inches from the TV, watching the halftime of a football game, though I wasn’t sure how I got to that channel. Vision was fuzzy, so I can’t be sure, but I swear the halftime band marching around the field had formed itself into a giant ebola virus. There’s no escaping.

Ah, for the good ol’ days, when all we had to worry about was ISIS and gun control and the president’s secret socialist agenda. Sigh.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Suburban Worldsick Blues

27 May

by Roger White

 

With a tip of the hat to a master chronicler of the American age, it must be noted that Bob Dylan never lived in a 3/2/2 with central heat/air and two and a half mortgages during a time when, by all appearances, our society is on the verge of utter decay—all viewable with the click of a mouse or touch of a pad.

 

So I give you “Suburban Worldsick Blues.”

 

Perry’s in the Capitol, railin’ against abortion,

I’m lookin’ at my taxes thinkin’ it’s extortion,

The man in the trench coat shootin’ up the school halls

Says he got bullied so everybody must fall.

 

Look out, dad, the economy is bad,

God knows what we did, but the country’s on the skids.

 

You better duck down, turn page, watch out for road rage,

Another mass swhyhooting, another senseless rampage,

Sterling’s on his cell phone reminiscin’ ’bout slavery,

Miley’s twerkin’ onstage, scandalous behavery.

 

Look out, mom, Gotta stay calm,

Soldiers in Kabul dodging roadside bombs.

 

Get sick, get well, they’re laying off again at Dell,

Are we winnin’ whatever war, it’s gettin’ kinda hard to tell,

Presidenidiotst says our healthcare system’s unfit,

All Congress says is where’s your birth certificate?

 

Well, Hormel, GM organizin’ recalls,

Bad meat, bad brakes, pickets down at town hall,

Daughter’s college fees call for medical sedation,

Building border walls to stifle immigration.

 

Look out, pop, no tellin’ where it stops,

Younger daughter’s boyfriend working at a head shop.

 

Mortgage underwater, excess beer consumption,

Viagra wants to help with that erectile dysfunction,

The factonoworkry just made a Chapter 11 declaration,

School board says it’s gonna teach divine creation.

 

Text tweet online, your selfie looking so fine,

Kids in Bosnia steppin’ on old land mines.

Icebergs meltin’, droughts killin’ all the wheat,

Just global warmin’ lies of the liberal elite.

 

Well, get dressed, get stressed, face the day’s traffic mess,

Oops, your job’s just been outsourced to Bangladesh.

Don’t follow leaders, take pills for all the cedars,

Find yourself a new position as a Walmart greeter.

 

Look out, mama, you’re dyin’ from the trauma,

Increase yer Prozac dosage, tune in the dalai lama.

 

Well, jump down a manhole, filibuster gun control,

thebardThink I saw a shadow up there beyond the grassy knoll,

Headin’ to the car, another day in the loony ward,

Shakin’ yer head ’cause the vandals keyed yer new Ford.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

143a.

 

Writer’s Block? No, It’s COS–Creative Obstruction Syndrome

11 Jun

by Roger White

 

When I was a kid, living in what was then a tiny suburban town with a flashing yellow light on the highway and a few close-knit neighborhoods in which summer curfew was the precise moment the street lights came on, I was good friends with the son of the town doctor. Despite the fact that he was the smartest d_burleson[1]kid in town and half the time I couldn’t understand what the devil he was talking about, he was a fun kid. For several preteen summers, we hung around together just about every day. We’d take turns having sleepovers at each other’s houses. David’s house was the nicest in town, and I always had a blast exploring the attic crawlspaces with him. We had a secret room in one of the crawlspaces we called Project Asparagus. The tiny storage space we decorated with shag rugs and posters and a black light. It was our cool, clandestine hideout. We didn’t discover until years later that his mom knew all about Project Asparagus and could hear us every time we crawled around in there. She said we sounded like two overgrown rats.

 

Anyway, David’s dad, Dr. Brown, was a community icon. Back then, you pretty much figured that doctors knew everything. You trusted their judgment. Their diagnoses, their viewpoint on things, carried much weight. Doctors fixed you. There wasn’t anything that doctors didn’t know.

 

I’m not sure if it’s a product of cynical wisdom that comes with maturity or the overwhelming influx of white noise and myriad “expert opinions” of this information age (have a symptom—Google it!), but as the years have gone by my unshakeable faith in the medical profession has eroded somewhat. In fact, if you were to graph my advancing age alongside my trust in MDs, QUAAACKyou’d have two lines angling in opposite directions. A lot of it could be due to the fact that today doctors have an official (and expensive-sounding) medical term for every human condition. And if they don’t actually know what it is that ails you, then they label it some nebulous multi-syllabic syndrome.

 

For example, lately our oldest daughter has been having stomach problems. She often feels queasy and lightheaded after she eats, and she’s even passed out a couple of times. It’s been unsettling, to say the least, so we took her in to a gastroenterologist. He took a quick gander at her, asked her a couple of questions, and pronounced that she was suffering from IBS—Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Cut back on the dairy and sugar and see me in a few weeks if it doesn’t get better, he said. Will that be cash or credit? What? That’s it? Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Geez, my bowels get irritable, too—every time I overdo the Tex-Mex and beer. Does that mean I have IBS? In fact, I would imagine everybody has IBS on occasion.

 

Don’t quote me on this, but I seriously think the word “syndrome” is either Greek or Latin for “best guess.” Just as “disorder” is code for “we really don’t know.” Instead of admitting they simply have no idea what the heck is wrong with you, docs assign you a syndrome. If you can’t sleep, you have Restless Leg Syndrome; if you’re tired a lot, you have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome; if you and your coworkers feel bad at the same time, you have Sick Building Syndrome. If you get mad, you have Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder. And, of course, let’s not forget perhaps the most significant medical discovery of the new age: ADD. When I was a kid, if you ran ADDaround a lot, couldn’t pay attention for long stretches, and hollered like a banshee, they called you normal and made you play outside until you were worn out. Nowadays, youngsters who exhibit the very same behavior are proclaimed to be suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder and promptly pumped full of prescription drugs strong enough to tranquilize a racehorse.

 

Ouch. I had a lot more to say about this, but my Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is flaring up. Meds! Where are my meds?!

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.